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July 2, 2012

New Transportation Bill Is Good News for Agriculture

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

The transportation bill ended up tackling a lot more than just transportation issues, including student loan rates and flood insurance, but AFBF Transportation Specialist Andrew Walmsley says the bottom line is good for U.S. agriculture. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has the story.
Miller:Congress actually did something that might surprise a lot of people! They accomplished something.
Walmsley:They passed a longer-term transportation bill than they’ve been unable to do for the last three years.
Miller:American Farm Bureau Transportation Specialist Andrew Walmsley says the 27-month bill allows transportation projects to keep rolling until September of 2014.
Walmsley:They knew that they had to get something done and if they didn’t a lot of people would be out of work. The folks that supported the federal government to fund those projects have something to take back to their districts and say, “Look we put people back to work; we’re paving the roads; we’re improving the infrastructure that everyone needs for commerce to function. 
Miller:Walmsley says the bill included an important fix for farmers and ranchers. They will now be exempt from several federal regulations that made it difficult for them to transport their products.
Walmsley:Those farmers and ranchers that are using a farm vehicle to haul their calves or their produce to market were exempt from some requirements that were meant for long-haul truckers, commercial truck drivers. Commercial driver’s license, medical certificates, hours of service requirements, pre and post trip inspections, those were all included and a farmer is exempt if he’s driving a vehicle that’s under 26,000 pounds. If he happens to be over 26,000 pounds he’s exempt up to 150 air miles from his farm, if he were to cross a state line. He’d be exempt within the state. It’s just an easier way to do business and reduce some of the regulatory burdens that are on them.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.
Miller:We have two extra actualities with AFBF Transportation Specialist Andrew Walmsley. In the first extra actuality he says passage of the transportation bill is a big deal. The cut runs 21 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Walmsley:Unfortunately it was really lost in the news cycle, with the health care Supreme Court decision,along with the contempt vote on Holder. This is actually quite a big accomplishment They tied student loans, pension and transportation together in one package. They were up against a hard deadline of the collection of the gas tax and transportation funding flowing to the states from the federal government was expiring on Saturday, June 30th, so they were up against a hard wall. 
Miller:In the second extra actuality Walmsley says the future of transportation funding is going to be a big issue down the road. The cut runs 14 seconds, in 3-2-1.
Walmsley:The gas tax that funds highway programs, with fuel efficiency and electric vehicles and everything else that we’re seeing on the roads today, that funding mechanism is in trouble. So I think they’re going to have to look long and hard in the next few years on figuring out how do we continue to fund the infrastructure needs of this country?
Miller:Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm Eastern time. Thank you for listening.

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